I heard about this movie for years, but never got around to watching it until fairly recently. I had heard the parkour stunts were amazing, and the director, Pierre Morel, had gone on to direct the highly enjoyable Taken, with Liam Neeson. So when I found it in a bargain bin, it was a no brainer.
The story is fairly simple. In a future dystopia, a cop and a criminal team up to break into District B13 to prevent a WMD from going off. District B13 is a walled-off area of Paris ala New York in Escape From New York. Economically depressed and overrun by crime, the place is a virtual war zone.
There really isn't much more to the plot, but I have to admit I was slightly underwhelmed by this movie.
The premise is pretty simple, and the opening chase sequence is excellent, but it takes over half the movie for our heroes to come together and break into District B13. And while David Belle (who plays the acrobatic crim Leito) is an amazing athlete, as a screen presence he is a little vanilla. The same goes for Cyril Raffaella as the cop, Tomaso.
It's silly b-movies like this which make me realise how important action stars are. The Transporter is an incredibly simple, silly movie, but because it's Jason Statham playing the hero, the movie's ridiculousness can pass muster. He sells the movie, and maintains viewer interest in the moments between the action scenes as well as during them.
Without that kind of charisma in the lead roles, the movie sags between the action beats, and there are a lot of gaps between the action scenes here.
The opening is terrific, and the introduction of Tomaso is great -- but they should have been condensed considerably. The movie is only 86 minutes long -- 65 minutes of that should have been our heroes plowing through District B13 and tangling with its various inhabitants. Instead, we get one fight between our heroes and a very large and hairy man with no discernible fighting talents beyond his size and a low centre of gravity.
Overall, District B13 is just above passable as b-movie entertainment. But with more charismatic leads, and more economical and action-driven approach it could have been b-movie gold.